Thursday, September 21, 2017

Spinning our wheels? Not! Conclusion

So far, we've seen that Peter is encouraging us to think about the right hings, to be focused and in control, and to have hope....what else has he got for us here?
Let's refresh our memory of the verse and the focus passage:
So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” I Peter 1:13-16)
"Don't slip back into your old ways..."
Sometimes, as my grandma used to say, that's a hard row to hoe. (Grin)
Sometimes it's hard to keep heading in the right direction.
When people get lost, they can easily think they are traveling in the right direction, but find that they are moving in circles, covering the same ground over and over.....spinning their wheels, you might say.
Sailing ships have had instruments for direction for a long time. Rudimentary ways at first, then sextants, and then better technologies. But what happens when all of the awesome technology or the instruments are not working for some reason? How to stay on course?
Well, the captain will set sights on a fixed point and keep heading in that direction....maybe a land mass if one is nearby, or at night, a star. As long as they can aim at that object, they can steer towards it. We need to set our sights on Jesus -- steering our thoughts and actions towards Him and His plans for us, we will be OK. But if we take our eyes off Him, we could be courting disaster.

Let's look at an example:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. (Matthew 14:25-31a)
Ahh, Peter....this happened just after the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Jesus had gone away from them to be by Himself and pray. Later that night, when the disciples were out in their boat, crossing the lake, they saw Jesus. Not standing at the water's edge, but walking on the water. They forget all about the miraculous power that Jesus had shown, and think they are seeing a ghost. So, Jesus calls out to them and encourages them. Now, put yourself in the disciples''s dark, and the wind is blowing, and the waves are getting larger. Would you rather hunker down in the boat, or would you, like Peter, answer the command of Jesus and put your piggies over the side of the boat?

Does this seem a little out of the ordinary, even for our impetuous and impulsive friend, Peter? Maybe so, but Peter had faith in his Lord. He trusted Jesus, so he stepped out of the boat -- onto the water. Not into it. Onto it. What a feeling that must have been! Was it a little squishy? Cushiony? Did he feel the movement? Well, it was firm enough to keep him on his feet.... at least it was as long as he had his eyes focused on Jesus. He was looking at his goal. Getting to the Lord. But as soon as he looked away from Christ, he started thinking about the wind, and the waves, and .... and he became afraid. We know what happened....he began to sink. First the water lapped around his ankles, and then around his knees -- he cried out to Jesus and He grabbed Him by the hand. The Bible says they walked together to get in the boat.
If we stay focused on Christ, He is here with us in the midst of any storm. We will not sink, but stand with our hand in His.
Verse 14 gives us the key to "not slipping back into the old ways." It mentions that we may have been disobedient before we were believers, because we didn't know any better.... as parents and neighbors of young kids, we all try to teach them things so they don't get hurt, right?  Don't touch the burner of the stove. Don't pull the kitty's tail. Be careful on your bicycle and watch out for cars. The list goes on.
We want the kids to be able to look after themselves, and make good decisions -- in short, we are grooming them for success!
Are we obedient children of God? Do we listen and then obey what He tells us to do, or not to do? Do we give Him the respect and honor that He is due as our heavenly Father? Before we accepted Jesus, our desires and thoughts, our focus was on "me, me, me" and not what God wants in our lives. As believers, and as obedient children, we must be different and keep our eyes on Him.

Then when the world looks at us, they will see that He has made a difference in the way we live, work, talk, raise our kids, and set our goals.
Then we'll have a testimony for Him.
And we WON'T be spinning our wheels!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spinning our wheels? Not! Part II

This week we are studying Peter's instructions for us, to prepare our minds. We talked about what an amazing thing the human brain is -- quite a masterpiece of the Master Creator!
And we said that it was up to each of us, what we used these great minds for...

A mind with nothing to do is rather useless, no? Do you remember those old television ads that intoned, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"? It's very true. Our minds were created to have such huge capacity for doing things. Think of all that we do with our minds: creativity, design, problem solving, caring, compassion, art, music, nurturing and loving.  To waste all of that potential would be a shame.
What do we think about?
What do we dwell on?
In fact, what kind of thoughts are going through our heads each day? Do we think about doing some good we can do when we leave our nest, or are we thinking about how to speed through our chores and errands, and not interact with too many people....too time consuming. Are we anticipating our prayer time in the morning, or are we thinking about catching a few more winks?  Are we eager to open our Bibles and see what the Spirit has for us today, or are we thinking about what's on our grocery list? Are we looking forward to accomplishing something today, or are we thinking of how to avoid doing those chores until tomorrow....or the next day....or the next?
All of these involve our wonderful minds, but they are not too productive!

Kinda like spinning our wheels, and not getting anywhere!
Well, what SHOULD we be thinking about? Well, an easy answer right off the bat is this from Paul in Philippians....a no-brainer, right?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
I'm telling you, years ago my grandma said there was lots of junk out there on the airwaves, and I think it's gotten worse since I right? We can fill our thoughts and our minds with that junk, or we can think about things that are actually worth considering! Why should we waste our time on thoughts that are useless -- or even harmful -- if we can instead focus on better things?

Second, Peter tells us that we need to prepare our minds by being self-controlled. Believers are not puppets on strings. We aren't remote controlled, like a kid's car or robot toy. Our Father gave us free will to make our own choices, and those choices include not just how we think, but also what we say, and how we live. Oh, but what about the influences in the world? They definitely want to control us! Take a peek at some of the commercials today: the advertisers are doing their best to change the way we think. They want us to think that we can't do without the product, in the first place. And in the second place, their brand of product is WAY better than anyone else's brand -- you gotta buy this one!!  Don't worry about the price. Don't even worry about if you really need it!

The devil employs much the same tactics in our lives. He makes us think that "things" are what we need. That any method we use to get those things is A-OK. That it doesn't matter who we hurt, or if we impact our own lives's the things you pile up that are important! It's the amount of power you can wield that matters!

If we pay attention to him (and to the commercials) we will not be controlled, we'll be out of control. We will be thinking, "I don't care what happens to anyone else!" and "Get out of my way, it's me, me, me that is important!"
Spinning our wheels in life. Oy vey.
Our thoughts and actions need to be both self-controlled, and Spirit controlled. Both? Yes. We need to have the Spirit's guidance and assistance to avoid being haphazard and unfocused. Here is where the rubber meets the road, folks: when we are focused and intentional in our thoughts, our actions will be, too. We will be Spirit-led, and we will take responsibility for our actions. A person who says what they intend to do and then completes what they said is much more likely to be respected. That's a much better testimony than careening through life, spinning our wheels, and not "walking the walk." We need to ensure that when we say we'll do something, we do it -- and we do it well!

Thirdly, Peter tells us to set our hope "on the grace to be given when Christ is revealed." When people see our lives, when they really look at us, what do they see? Unbeliever or Christian, when they see the way we conduct ourselves, what's most apparent? What are we striving for in our lives? Do they see people that seem bored? That seem mopey? That seem to be unfocused, or unjoyful, or without hope?
Oh no, I hope not!
When people look at our lives, they need to see people that are full of purpose, that are focused and have true joy in their lives. They need to see people that are living with hope!

We have a big responsibility, you and I. When people look at us, they should see Jesus. Christ is revealed to the world through us! Ever heard the phrase, "you may be the only Bible some folks read"? It's absolutely true! We need to be walking commercials for the facts: our sins can be forgiven, and our souls can be saved -- and are worth saving! That grace is there for anyone and everyone who will receive it! We can show this to others by the way we live....and that, my friends, is not spinning our wheels!

Join me tomorrow and we'll conclude our study of this portion of the verse.....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What are we listening to?

Just days ago, when the hurricane-turned-tropical-storm was blowing through our area, we were standing on our porch, listening to the wind and rain.

I used to hear my grandma talk about the wind "howling" and it truly was, on this afternoon. As it whipped around the house, it seemed intent on battering it, and it "sang" and "whistled" as it rushed around eaves and rooftop.

We could hear the creaking of trees as they bent before the gusts, and the occasional snap of a limb punctuated the sounds of the storm.

After hours of battering the house, the wind moved on, the rain began to die down, and an eerie quiet descended. It was as if God had moved His hand over the woods and said for the storm to stop.

This situation in the lives of Jesus and His disciples came to mind....
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39)
As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. (Luke 8:23-24)

Have you listened lately to the sounds of power in God's creation? Have you then listened in the quiet, for the still, small voice of His Spirit?

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;    he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me,    I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2) 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spinning our wheels? Not!

Are ya interested in that title? (Grin) We'll get to that momentarily, but first let's refresh our memory of the passage we are studying, OK?
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (I Peter 1:13-16, NIV)
Here it is in another translation -- check this out!
So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (NLT)

I warned you that we'd be camping here in I Peter 1 for a's just so exciting and full of awesome stuff! (Grin)

Just a few days ago, seemed like everyone was telling the folks here in the Southland, "be prepared!"And it really is a good idea....get your seventy-two hour pack prepared: food stuffs, batteries, blankets, even toilet paper!  Be prepared..... if you are going on a trip, make sure your gas tank is full, tires are at the right pressure, and you've studied your route!

Our study this week deals with the preparation of our minds. The way we think -- are we ready for action?
In the previous weeks, we have discussed the living hope we have through Christ's resurrection; we have an everlasting inheritance -- heaven! That's our hope that we have, when all around us the world seems to be turned upside down. That is how we have inner joy, in spite of suffering. Our faith is secure, and we give praise and glory to Him....that's what the first few verses told us, right?

Therefore..... Peter is building on the foundation he built!
Therefore, prepare our minds for action.
Hmmmm. What do you think of, when you think about someone preparing for action?
Well, I guess athletes get themselves ready; they get in shape. They do particular exercises, and they eat nutritious foods, and then get lots of good sleep.
Some athletes also need the right equipment. Their preparation may include selecting the perfect bat or ball or shoes. They'll search and try many, many options before deciding on just the right one.
Race car drivers will prepare by honing their car's engine, tires, and more for the best performance on the track.
Jockeys will ensure that their horses are fed right, exercised correctly, and bedded down in clean straw.
And all of these folks will do something else: practice!
Over and over again they will practice their skill, until they feel they are fully prepared.

Oh, but wait! Peter isn't talking about our bodies here. He isn't talking about our equipment.
He is talking about our minds. He's pointing to the way that we think.
Did you know that our brain is one of the most complex things known to man? Billions of nerve cells make countless electrical connections inside our head. Millions of messages traveling around and across inside our brain, and all of it happens without our having to think or will it to happen!
We may be thinking of days gone by, concerns about tomorrow, our spouse's mobile phone number, our child's favorite video, or thinking, "Did I turn off the iron before I left the house?"
All of these are accessible inside our head, much like the files of a computer hard drive -- except better! Our mind is a marvel of God's creative work....He formed us in our mothers' wombs, the Psalmist tells us. We are "fearfully and wonderfully" made.

Yes, God gave us our minds. How we choose to use them is up to us. And Peter is urging us to prepare for action -- get ready!

We'll talk more on this next time....

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Our alternative lifestyle - conclusion of overview (I Peter 1:13-16)

Our alternative lifestyle - a lifestyle that is outside the norm. We're continuing these thoughts today, so let's jump right in! Yesterday we asked ourselves the questions: are we living a life of faith, of purpose, of holiness? Is there anything different in us, when unbelievers take a look at our lives?

Here's why it's so important: no matter what the labels are, that people put on different generations....Gen X, Millennial, Greatest Generation, Baby-Boomers......every generation is looking for something. Today's world is no different. People are desperately searching for something real. They long for something authentic. And they are always, always watching Christians. To see if we are the real thing. Unless we are living an "alternative" lifestyle to that which is prevalent in the world, we will seem no different; we will never be the light that this world needs so badly. And that takes a transformation.

Transforming what?
Well, for one thing, our focus needs to be more on God, and less on ourselves. That's a big difference from the world, from the start! The world says, "Me, me, me! It's all about me!" But for a believer, the focus, the center of our life, needs to be the Lord.....not letting Him peek in from the edges, but placing Him at the center of our life.
How to do that?
Jesus told us:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)
When we center our lives on God, and on building our relationship with Him, we will spend less time "going through the motions" of what we think we should be. No more spinning our wheels trying to be what the world thinks we should be. We will concentrate on His plans and His purpose for our lives.

Easy peasy, right?
It can really be a struggle, living each day as an authentic believer, as a disciple with a life centered in Him. Sometimes we will fall back into old patterns of behavior. Sometimes we will fail to control our words or our actions. It will be important to remember His grace, and His mercy that says, "Get up, child, this moment is new. Start over."

And sometimes we will be tempted to compartmentalize our lives.
You know what I mean. I know you do.
We divide our lives into segments....we put way more effort into some than into others.
At church, we are supposed to be Christians, so we act like we are.
At work, we try to act like a Christian, but the other people don't know the script as well, so we don't have to play the role as carefully.
At home, we act like our real selves. After all, our secret is safe with the family, right?

The moment the doorbell rings, we shift gears and become the model Christian again. It's magic!
And sometimes we do the same thing with our relationship with God.
How many of us have been having a "disciplinary moment" with our kids in the car, but when we put it in park at the church door, the "Holy Spirit" suddenly comes upon us? Instead of the voice and attitude we had inside the car, we are smiling at the people at the door, singing with a lovely voice (when it was raised in anger moments before) and we have a nice visit with God.

Then it's back in the car and being our real selves again.
Oy vey.
Instead of being actors, God wants us to be authentic. To be transformed from the inside, not simply changing the way we act on the outside. And God is the one Who can do this. He is the One Who can transform us into the image of Jesus. Little by little. (That's sanctification!)

The Pharisees were not authentic. Remember?
 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)
Our transformation? Our alternative lifestyle? It's something that we will have to work at. To struggle with. To pray about. To truly focus on God in the center of our lives.
The decision itself is not hard. If we've accepted Jesus as our Lord and our Savior, we will have a real desire to be like Him. We will want to behave like His disciple. Our heart will be so full of gratitude for His loving us and giving Himself for us, that we will be willing to serve.....not out of duty, but out of love for Him.
If we truly believe that He is with us, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it can change the way we think and act! So then, the "me" that others see at home, at work, at the grocery store, will be the same "me" that people see at church!
And don't forget that last verse...."Love your neighbor".....when we walk into a shop, do we see the workers there as people there to serve us? Or as people who need to know the love of Jesus?
When we spend time with colleagues from work, do we use our talents to speak to them for Him?

Sometimes our human side makes us spend time focusing on what we don't have. Or on what someone else has. When our focus is on the plan and purpose God has for us, we can experience contentment. We are each unique. And talented. And God has a plan to use those skills and talents!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
With our alternative lifestyle, we have a chance to be a candle, a light bulb, or even a lighthouse!

It's an adventure! An alternative lifestyle. A holy lifestyle.

We'll study this more next week! Hope you will be here with us!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A call to an alternative lifestyle: I Peter 1:13-16 overview

We are getting into some really exciting passages in I Peter....there's so much here for us, it's like one of those vegetable sacks at the farmers' market -- so stuffed full that it's about to burst! Each verse is packed with enough goodies to keep us studying and learning for quite a while!

I thought it might be good to give ourselves an overview of this next group of verses. Then we'll zero in on them and immerse ourselves in what the Spirit has for us.

Sound good?
Let's read first:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (I Peter 1:13-16)
We hear a lot today about "alternative lifestyles." It's a term that is used on news shows, and in everyday discussions, too. What does it mean? Well, it is a pretty wide range of meanings....

Wikipedia, a secular resource, says this: "an alternative lifestyle is a lifestyle diverse in respect to mainstream ones..."

I guess you and I might think of those who affect wildly different apparel (or no apparel at all), different food or medicine options, many different practices.

Have you noticed, though, that more and more, Christianity is regarded as "out of the mainstream," and "not the cultural norm"?  About(dot)com even says: "a philosophy or way of thinking that differs from mainstream culture or society, for example,....Abrahamic belief systems."
That includes Jewish people, Muslims, and ..... wait for it......Christians.

Has the world turned upside down or what?
How different is that outlook from that of our own grandparents, or their parents?
In today's world, it's not just that the lines between right and wrong have been blurred. It's that wrong has become right! Lies have become truth! As my grandma would say, the turtle's been flipped over on his back, and somebody needs to turn him back!

I truly believe that God has always expected and planned for His people to live outside of what the world says is the cultural norm. There are many verses in the Word that tell us we've been called to live according to His plan, and fulfilling His purpose. We all are familiar with the verses that talk about being chosen, and set apart. We have been forgiven and saved -- why? So that we can live for Christ!
Our alternative lifestyle challenges the moral attitudes around us. It flies in the face of most of the political and social ways of thinking in this world.

Our alternative lifestyle proclaims the truth of the Gospel of Christ to a broken and sin-weary world. We are instructed to be salt and light in that world. Not swimming along in the same channels. Nope. To be salt and light, we have to live, and speak, and act in ways that bring honor and glory to Him.

Our alternative lifestyle has been called a narrow path:
 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

Oh boy. That's a wake-up call, no? Are we scared to quote that? Do we cringe because others might say we are intolerant?
We're just stating the facts....if we ignore God, and reject salvation from His Son Jesus, we will stay on the broad path to hell. If we obey God, and accept Jesus as our Savior, we have eternal salvation and a home in heaven.

I believe that instead of worrying about being "politically correct," we need to follow in the steps and example of Jesus. Did He sugar-coat the truth? Soft-pedal His message?
Here, I'll let you decide:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:6-7, 23-24)

He isn't "a" way. He's "the" way.  And we are called to follow Him, and obey Him, because we love Him so much -- He loved us so much!

In this section of I Peter, Peter is reminding us of something we may have forgotten: we are meant to live an alternative lifestyle from that of the world. Our lives are to be lives of faith, of service, and of trusting in short, our lives are to be holy.

Do we act differently from the world?
Do we think differently from the world?
Is there ANYTHING that sets us apart, or makes people looking at us think we are different?

Would you please pass that box of bandaids for my toes?
And please join me tomorrow.....